When Stuart Levy started Tokyopop Inc. in 1997, he had a tough time convincing venture capitalists that Japanese comic books could be popular in America. But "comic books" doesn't adequately describe the mass appeal of manga, full-length black-and-white graphic novels spanning every genre from hard-boiled action-adventure sagas to sci- fi and fantasy. Today L.A.-based Tokyopop has a projected revenue of $35 million for 2003 and brings to the U.S. about 40 English- language manga titles a month in addition to producing spinoffs in formats such as anime, soundtracks and CD-Roms. Levy, 36, has a degree in economics from UCLA and a law degree from Georgetown University. He first visited Japan at 21 on a student program, returning for a year after law school to immerse himself in the language. After his Northridge apartment was destroyed in the 1994 earthquake, the self-described "digital guy" went back to Japan, read his first manga and promptly put his multimedia and legal chops to work unleashing Japan's graphic operatics on the U.S. We went to Levy for some East-West synergy.